Now, the books

When I read A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE back in the seventies, I’d never come across anything quite like it. Forty years later, that’s not the case, but Peter S. Beagle’s first novel (which saw print a decade after writing, after the success of Last Unicorn) still has a lot of charm in telling the story of an old man hiding in a mausoleum since he went bankrupt and his rebirth under the influence of a Jewish widow, a generous raven and two ghosts falling in love even though their minds are fading into oblivion (Beagle’s handling of the afterlife reminds me a lot of Our Town). My second-favorite Beagle book.
MOTHER NIGHT is an early Vonnegut novel in which a former American spy tells how he wound up in an Israeli cell (where he gets to chat with Adolf Eichmann), as a result of giving Nazi propaganda broadcasts so powerful (despite him using them to send messages to the Allies) that one Nazi asserts that he owes his every thought and ideal to them. Vonnegut’s quite explicit about the moral (be careful what you pretend to be, or your face may stick that way) but it also strikes me as a good example of the banality of evil, with a narrator perfectly happy to go along with the Nazis to get along.
WHEN LONDON WAS THE CAPITAL OF AMERICA by Julie Flavell looks at the era when London was the largest city of the western world, a center of culture, science and commerce and a natural magnet for American colonists looking to do business, get an education or acquire social polish. What really leaps out about this pre-Revolutionary period is how much it varies from the established stereotypes of transatlantic relationships: Southern colonists were the sophisticated Americans (in contrast to the poor-white farmers and religious nuts of New England) and instead of wholesome Americans corrupted by the decadent Old World, it was assume decadent Southerners would be able to learn Proper Englishness by a stint away from the land of slavery (needless to say, it didn’t always work out like that). Good.
A SUDDEN WILD MAGIC was Diana Wynne Jones’ first adult novel, in which a coven of witches discovers mages from a parallel world have triggered everything from global warming to World War II in order to force us to develop solutions to their world’s problems. The most obvious difference from Jones’ Y/A work is that this has a lot of sex (nothing graphic), but the protagonists are also much older than usual; stylistically it’s the first (and only?——guess I’ll find out as I keep rereading) to use multiple POV instead of one person. Not her best, but entertaining as always.

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One response to “Now, the books

  1. Pingback: The greatest time-travel movies ever … were not what I watched this week (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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